FGD: Looking for A Sign of Life

Kent Wilson
February 23 2013 03:20PM

In each of the prior two seasons, the Flames stumbled out of the gate and found themselves at the bottom of the western conference before ultimately turning things around and competing for a playoff spot. The rebound in each season eventually fell short, but it was usually enough to convince the decision makers to stay the course at the deadline and try again the next year.

The 2013 season has started with the same script. Through a combination of bad luck, poor goaltending, injuries and problematic roster construction, Calgary is 14th in the West at the quarter pole. The issue this time around is the club doesn't have 30 or so games to work out the kinks and start putting a few wins together. In fact, there is only 33 games left in the lock-out shortened season, meaning another week or two of below .500 hockey from Calgary will likely sink their post-season chances for good (if it hasn't already).

In town tonight are the Minnesota Wild, one of the other mediocre clubs the Flames will no doubt have to climb over to make the post-season. The last contest versus the Wild was a snoozer so don't expect a barn burner tonight. It will be easier to accept a low-event game if the Flames emerge the victor this time of course.

The Line-up

Jones and Horak are back on the farm while Sven Baertschi finds himself back on the active roster.

  • Tanguay - Stajan - Iginla
  • Glencross - Cammalleri - Stempniak
  • Baertchi - Comeau - Hudler
  • Jackman - Begin - Aliu

  • Giordano - Bouwmeester
  • Wideman - Brodie
  • Butler - Smith

  • MacDonald

Stajan finds himself back centering Jarome after a long hiatus on the lower lines. Stajan has had a decent season both by counting and underlying numbers, although I maintain he's not good enough to float a line with Iginla playing against other teams best players. That's why Stajan's stock sunk so low in the first place: playing in that role made him look completely over his head. That said, it's not like the Flames have another option right now.

Cammalleri moves back to center and I'm not sure wht took hartley so long to give that a try given the team's total dearth of centermen. That unit could do some damage if Cammalleri can figure things out as a pivot, especially if they don't have to play against the big boys.

The third line, in contrast, is a dogs breakfast. Comeau isn't a center, nor a third line player at this point and Sven Baertschi is as raw as they come. Hudler has had a decent start to his Flames tenure (last few games notwithstanding) but he's not good enough to save that kind of unit. Expect that trio to be treated with kid gloves by the coaching staff.

Of course, there's a good chance Roman Cervenka is a scratch tonight. Pat Steinberg is reporting that it is more a health/conditioning than performance issue, but I remain skeptical. While Cervenka did have some health concerns heading into the season, no one was talking about his conditioning or monitoring his progression when he and Hudler were playing well and scoring on 17% of their shots at even strength. To me it sounds like the org coming up with a semi-plausible explanation for a healthy scratch in order to head off pesky media questions and fan incredulity, but I guess we'll see.

Finally, Aliu joins the fourth line with Jackman and Begin, making them bigger and rougher but undeniably worse at actually playing hockey. That means Calgary's bottom-6 as a whole is a big, throbbing liability at even strength tonight, so expect the top-six guys to see a lot of ice time.

The Opposition

Despite their big spending in the summer, the Wild are still not a heavy weight. Their depth is questionable and they still can't really control the flow of play.

  • Parise - Koivu - Heatley
  • Zucker - Cullen - Setoguchi
  • Bouchard - Brodziak - Coyle
  • Rupp - Granlund - Mitchell

  • Suter - Brodin
  • Gilbert - Stoner
  • Prosser - Spurgeon

  • Backstrom

Koivu and Parise were quiet last time these two clubs met, but they remian the Wild's primary weapons up front. Cal Clutterbuck is out after the Taylor Hall hit the other day, which is good news for the Flames - not only can he deliver hard hits, but Clutterbuck is one of the few accomplished two-way players on the Wild's roster.

For those lamenting Baertschi's usage before he went down to injury, notice it's not strictly a Calgary thing. Mikael Granlund arrived with a lot of fan fare and expectations, but has struggled mightily even against nominal opposition this year. He's now skating with Rupp and Mitchell on the fourth line, simply because he can't hold his ground against established NHLers yet. He may well develop into a high-end player, but this year he's little more than a replacement level 4th liner.

Sum It Up

The Wild are currently in 8th place and will be desperate to maintain that position while the Flames have to start winning games ASAP if they want to have any chance of moving up into the playoff fray.

Other Stuff

- I will be at the game tonight as press, but Justin Azevedo will update the chance count every period.

- VF and I will be stopping by the Tilted Kilt tonight before the game to have some pops and a bite to eat. Feel free to swing by and join us. 

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Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 bookofloob
February 23 2013, 03:28PM
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I'm not one to find a lot of solace in "Hey, the Wild aren't using their high profile rookies properly either"

Because they're the Wild.

Still though, nice to see Sven back, would much rather see Cervenka on that line with him and Hudler. If there's anything at all to watching out for Cervenka's health, I'm all for sitting him.

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#2 schevvy
February 23 2013, 03:39PM
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Kent from now on will be referred to as "Mr. Big Shot" with his press pass. :)

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#3 loudogYYC
February 23 2013, 03:40PM
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Hope this isn't another snoozer, at least we'll get to see some effort coming out of Aliu in the 3-4 minutes he'll likely play.

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#4 RexLibris
February 23 2013, 03:44PM
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About that Clutterbuck thing: you're welcome. =)

Minnesota and low-event? Should have been their team name.

Best of luck tonight.

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#5 Blob
February 23 2013, 03:45PM
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loudogYYC wrote:

Hope this isn't another snoozer, at least we'll get to see some effort coming out of Aliu in the 3-4 minutes he'll likely play.

Effort and bad, bad hockey.

So not a fan of that recall.

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#7 Colin.S
February 23 2013, 04:24PM
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Can we all just agree that the Flames player management and personel choices at this point is baffeling at best and down right absurd at worst.

I finds it amusing that Steinberg was trying to put the Cervenka demotion as the Flames trying to watch out for him and his blood clots. While the team was probably cool playing a 35+ goalie for every single game this year. If he's hurt, he's hurt and say he's hurt but if you are gonna have Comeau center a third line because you think he's a better option than Cervenka, there is not a pink slip big enough for the entire management team.

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#8 Colin.S
February 23 2013, 04:25PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Most teams do the same - of the kid can't at least tread water, they move him down the rotation. Unless you're the Oilers and you don't have anyone else to play, then you feed all your teens to the wolves and lose terribly.

You mean there is a goal to the season other than securing the first overall pick...... I wonder when the Oilers will figure that out.

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#9 negrilcowboy
February 23 2013, 04:31PM
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Peter Gabriel's song is now the theme for flamesnation, hope you don't forget the little people Kent, and for the record i am referring to us schlogs not midgets or dwarfs. Now that we have our guy in the loop, could you please get the name of the pills flames brass are poppin, perhaps it will give tangable answers to what the hell is going on. congrats kent.

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#10 Chris Fairfield
February 23 2013, 04:33PM
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Colin.S wrote:

Can we all just agree that the Flames player management and personel choices at this point is baffeling at best and down right absurd at worst.

I finds it amusing that Steinberg was trying to put the Cervenka demotion as the Flames trying to watch out for him and his blood clots. While the team was probably cool playing a 35+ goalie for every single game this year. If he's hurt, he's hurt and say he's hurt but if you are gonna have Comeau center a third line because you think he's a better option than Cervenka, there is not a pink slip big enough for the entire management team.

You hit the nail on the proverbial head Colin and oh yeah, Comeau still sucks.

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#11 negrilcowboy
February 23 2013, 04:44PM
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so sven is being thrown in without a conditioning stint? is that highly advisable seeing as he is a young impressionable kid.

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#12 backburner
February 23 2013, 04:59PM
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"Stajan Unchained"

It all starts tonight my friends... this will be what everyone will talk about for years to come... right? guys??

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#13 RexLibris
February 23 2013, 05:19PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Most teams do the same - of the kid can't at least tread water, they move him down the rotation. Unless you're the Oilers and you don't have anyone else to play, then you feed all your teens to the wolves and lose terribly.

Early returns suggest that some of the kids are feasting on the wolves. ;-)

To be fair though, they are taking their time with some of the other prospects.

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#14 RKD
February 23 2013, 05:55PM
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I don't know if scratching Cervenka is the wisest thing to do, he has really good chemistry with Hudler. Yes, he could be better and play with some more grit but he's been playing his whole career in the KHL where it's not as physical so it probably takes time to get used to it.

History sure does repeat itself with the Flames, another slow start to the season means they are playing catch up once again. At 5-7-3, they would need to go 21-11-1 or close to .650 hockey to hit 56 points and squeak into 8th spot.

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#15 Ryan Pike
February 23 2013, 07:07PM
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They got me sitting next to a pretty big jerk tonight, folks. I'm tempted to complain.

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#16 Colin.S
February 23 2013, 07:21PM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

They got me sitting next to a pretty big jerk tonight, folks. I'm tempted to complain.

At the Dome or at TK? cause if its at the game, thats why I've vowed never to go to another Flames home game, so many jerk/asshats at the dome.

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#17 negrilcowboy
February 23 2013, 07:27PM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

They got me sitting next to a pretty big jerk tonight, folks. I'm tempted to complain.

is it a moronic ego inflated print guy?

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#18 FlameinATL
February 23 2013, 07:27PM
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Good to see Baertchi back although I do not really get Ailu. And good to see Cammy at center.

Let's go Flames...tonight starts a good little run to erase the bad from the last two games.

Go Flames!

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#19 Colin.S
February 23 2013, 07:33PM
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negrilcowboy wrote:

is it a moronic ego inflated print guy?

Ken King?

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#20 Ryan Pike
February 23 2013, 07:44PM
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Here's a hint: he works in web sports media.

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#21 Colin.S
February 23 2013, 07:54PM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

Here's a hint: he works in web sports media.

Steinberg.

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#22 Alt
February 23 2013, 08:08PM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

They got me sitting next to a pretty big jerk tonight, folks. I'm tempted to complain.

Hey i know that guy .Wait till he starts swilling beer and throwing his arms around

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#23 Ryan Pike
February 23 2013, 08:13PM
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I'm quite disappointed that nobody's guessed yet.

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#24 Colin.S
February 23 2013, 08:17PM
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I'm mostly just kidding and not serious guesses, I have honestly no idea. If you want a guess, gotta go with VF.

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#27 negrilcowboy
February 23 2013, 08:35PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

They have me seated next to jackass in the pressbox.

haha so the pair of you are together, at least you don't have to suffer through kelly hrudey

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#28 Colin S
February 23 2013, 08:36PM
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Colin.S wrote:

Can we all just agree that the Flames player management and personel choices at this point is baffeling at best and down right absurd at worst.

I finds it amusing that Steinberg was trying to put the Cervenka demotion as the Flames trying to watch out for him and his blood clots. While the team was probably cool playing a 35+ goalie for every single game this year. If he's hurt, he's hurt and say he's hurt but if you are gonna have Comeau center a third line because you think he's a better option than Cervenka, there is not a pink slip big enough for the entire management team.

Imposter!

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#29 Bob Cob
February 23 2013, 08:36PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

They have me seated next to jackass in the pressbox.

Well it takes one to know one, and you could mean anyone in Calgary media.

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#31 Justin Azevedo
February 23 2013, 08:38PM
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what a pass from jbo

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#32 Colin S
February 23 2013, 08:40PM
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@Justin Azevedo

You didn't approve my trade for Hudler in time for the game :(

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#34 negrilcowboy
February 23 2013, 08:43PM
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fug hrudey makes simmer sound like a mensa member, gawd he is pathetic.

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#36 Aussie Flame
February 23 2013, 08:48PM
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Did they just play "The Safety Dance" during a faceoff?

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#37 Jibmeister
February 23 2013, 08:49PM
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Baertschi and Hudler showing chemistry.

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#39 Justin Azevedo
February 23 2013, 08:53PM
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@Colin S

read's team already "played" today so it wouldn't let me

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#40 Justin Azevedo
February 23 2013, 08:53PM
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kent's sitting next to pike, people.

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#41 negrilcowboy
February 23 2013, 08:54PM
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what are the wild payin heatley in burgers, man he looks slow n fat

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#42 Colin S
February 23 2013, 08:54PM
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Justin Azevedo wrote:

read's team already "played" today so it wouldn't let me

Ahh gotcha. I wish it wouldn't lock in people that didn't actually play.

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#45 negrilcowboy
February 23 2013, 09:10PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Flames playing like it's icings that matter and not goals.

new tactics and strategy in the post lockout era.

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#46 Justin Azevedo
February 23 2013, 09:11PM
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chances 5-4 calgary, all at even strength.

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#47 Ryan Pike
February 23 2013, 09:12PM
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Fun Fact: The Flames iced the puck FIVE TIMES this period.

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#48 Clay
February 23 2013, 09:17PM
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we look about as expected... I guess

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#49 ChinookArch
February 23 2013, 09:23PM
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Just tuning in, how much didn't I miss?

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#50 Colin.S
February 23 2013, 09:30PM
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Ryan Pike wrote:

Fun Fact: The Flames iced the puck FIVE TIMES this period.

Seems lower than I would have thought...

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